Two of us made the 5 day trip from eastern OZ to the Western Australian goldfields for a 8 week detecting trip.(armed with 7000,s and SDC)
We targeted remoter spots that are not really on the radar. We invested in a pile of permits and researched lots of available ground spots. Lots of walking and lots of barren gullies and creeks...... but occasionally we found the odd gully or slope not touched by a detector that yielded some nice runs of gold. We went 50/50 with our finds, sharing is the way to get a bigger tally when 2 or 3 of you (of equal ability) spread out searching large areas. All up we shared 45 ounces between two of us. There are many ugly specimens not pictured and we will have a big crush and smelt day soon. Cheers RDD
A comment I made on Jins post recently reminded me of how easy it is to walk over good sized gold.
We are all familiar with the horrible loud screams detectors make over big surface targets. Sometimes the cause is obvious, usually surface rubbish such as a visible piece of tin or squashed beer can.
Occasionally, when walking paddocks (which I mostly do) it turns out to be something useful, such as a lost spanner or fuel cap from a tractor - I have even found a grease gun lying concealed in the grass. These items I always return to the grateful landowner.
More commonly, however, it is something useless like an old horseshoe, worn out cultivator point and/or the sheared bolts which once held it to the plough tyne. After digging a number of these the temptation to keep walking (with ears still ringing) becomes ~almost~ irresistible.
Back in the Minelab SD2200 days I had permission to work a large Victorian property located on the Tarnagulla granite pluton to the north of Dunolly. This had a number of unworked shallow Tertiary palaeochannels crossing it, on one of which I located a 7 oz patch. Mostly the gold was smallish and reasonably deep, but the same location was also littered with shallow shotgun shells. These were very loud and nearly drove me nuts, and in my frustration I ignored one outlier - - -
Fast forward a number of years and, armed with later technology (GPX4000) I decided to check the patch once more and - - - WHUMP/SCREAM - - - greeted my ears over that same target.
I kicked the dirt in annoyance - and then spotted the 70 grammer I had ignored years earlier:
I had foolishly made the assumption that all the gold in that patch was deep and small, therefore loud shallow targets had to be junk - overlooking the possibility that something once deep could have been ploughed to the surface - - - I kept it to remind me of the old detecting maxim: "Dig your targets"
By Steve Herschbach
This gold prospecting and metal detecting story takes us all the way back to the beginning - my beginning that is. I was fortunate enough to be born in the Territory of Alaska in 1957. Alaska was still very much on the frontier back in those days. My father was a farm boy from the midwest who headed for Alaska in the early 50's with not much more than an old pickup truck. He worked as a longshoreman offloading ships in Seward, Alaska for a time. He decided to get some education and earned his way through college in Fairbanks, Alaska by driving steampipe for the fleet of gold dredges that were still working there. He spent some time in Seldovia, Alaska working the "slime line" in a fish cannery. He met my mom in Seldovia, the two got married, and finally settled in Anchorage, Alaska.
I came along in 1957. My father had taken a job as a surveyor but money was tight in the early years. I was raised on wild game and garden grown vegetables, and as soon as I was old enough to handle it, I was walking a trapline every winter with my father. Dad was a hard worker however, and Alaska was having one of its many booms at the time - the construction of the oil and gas fields in Lower Cook Inlet. This was the Swanson River oilfield, discovered the year I was born.
The state was prospering and my father along with it as a surveyor on the new Swanson Field. He got the bug for flying early on, and by the time I became a teenager he finally got his dream plane at the time - a Piper Super Cub, the classic Alaska Bush airplane. Super Cubs equipped with oversize "tundra tires" can land just about anywhere you can find about 300 - 400 feet of open ground. A great little airplane and the one I ended up flying to get my own pilot's license.
Super Cub N1769P parked on knoll in Talkeetna Mountains, Alaska
It was in this same timeframe that dad got me hooked on gold prospecting. In 1972 I saw an ad in a magazine "Find Lost Treasure" and had acquired my first metal detector, a White's Coinmaster 4. This must have got discussions going about gold, and my father did have some knowledge on the subject having worked around the gold mines in Fairbanks. He took me to a little creek south of Anchorage, Bertha Creek, and I found my very first flakes of gold! By the ripe old age of 14 gold fever was in the air, I had my first metal detector, and already wanted a gold dredge. My first dredge, a 3" Keene with no floatation, was on the way to me in 1973.
Keep in mind that the price of gold had only recently been deregulated from the old fixed price of $35 per ounce. In 1972 it was around $60 per ounce, and in 1973 made it to just over $100 per ounce. The money was not my motivation at all. I already just loved finding gold, and the connection to the prospectors of old and the historical quest for gold were more compelling than any dream of striking it rich. I just wanted to find gold!
My first metal detector and first gold dredge (my 3502 had the older aluminum header box & a power jet)
A young man with a new detector, new gold dredge, gold fever, and a father willing to fly him anywhere in Alaska on adventure. How great is that? Now there was only one problem - where to go? There was no internet then, so it boiled down to libraries and research. In short order I discovered the United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) bulletin series and the number one Alaska title of the series, Placer Deposits of Alaska, U.S.G.S. Bulletin 1374 by Edward H. Cobb. This one book and the references contained in it became my prospecting guide to Alaska. My desired target? Remote locations with large gold nuggets!
I read the book and certain places just jumped out at me. One was the Iditarod area and places like Ganes Creek and Moore Creek - tales told elsewhere. This paragraph of page 114 caught my eye:
"Placer mining in the Chisana district, first of creek gravels and later of bench and old channel deposits of Bonanza and Little Eldorado Creeks, has always been on a small scale with simple equipment. The remoteness of the area, shortages of water on some streams, and the small extent of the deposits all prevented the development of large operations. There has been little activity since World War II; the last reported mining was a two-man nonfloat operation in 1965."
Wow, that alone sounds pretty good. Nothing really about the gold however. The secret to the Placer Deposits series is not so much the books themselves, though they are great for getting ideas, like I did. The key is to use the references listed and in this case the main one is The Chisana-White River District, Alaska, U.S.G.S. Bulletin 630 (1916) by Stephen Reid Capps.
It turns out I had stumbled over the location of the last actual gold rush in Alaska in 1913. It was a small rush and did not last long, but it did mark the end of an era. The world was on the brink of war and the age of gold rushes was soon to be history. The history of the area is covered in the report starting on page 89. It is fascinating reading, but it was this note on page 105 that really sealed the deal:
"The gold is bright, coarse, and smoothly worn. The largest nugget found has a value of over $130, and pieces weighing a quarter of an ounce or over make up about 5 per cent of the total gold recovered. The gold is said to assay $16.67 an ounce."
Gold nuggets a quarter ounce or larger make up five percent of the gold? And that $130 nugget at $16.67 an ounce? Somewhere over seven ounces. That's all I needed to know. Very remote, worked by simple means, and large gold - I wanted to go to Chisana in general and Bonanza Creek in particular. Even the creek names scream gold - Bonanza Creek, Big Eldorado Creek, Little Eldorado Creek, Coarse Money Creek, and Gold Run. Now all we had to do was get there. But when I said remote, I meant remote. Chisana is practically in Canada 250 air miles from Anchorage.
To be continued.....
Chisana, Alaska location map
I was actually over on the Sawtooth side, but most people recognize the Rye Patch. I consider myself a fairly rugged guy, but N NV in July is no place to be without some decent shelter from the afternoon sun and heat. A 10 X 10 Walmart quick shade seems to provide shade, but focus the radiant heat somehow making it hotter under the shade, if that makes sense. The afternoon breezes are hot and dry leaving my only thoughts to cold drinks. Cold beer was my last choice, Gatorade and water were the only solutions. I endured 2 days and found 1 tiny nugget with the Nox 800.
I rode my Rokon and explored way up an old "ghost road" on the afternoon of the first day. With field glasses I saw a couple canyons that had exposed bedrock and I aimed to hike them the next morning while it was cool. N NV climate is a funny thing, I woke up to 61 degrees, but temps would climb to 90 by 11AM. As I was gathering my gear, I had one of those nagging premonitions. I suspect we have them all the time, but only remember the ones that come true. Nevertheless, I packed extra water and my Garmin Satellite Communication device. I was merrily riding up the ghost road enjoying the refreshing morning air when, bang. I felt the Rokon torque converter explode into the protective fiberglass shield. Fortunately, I was only half way to my destination. I carry tools and some spare parts, but no amount of duct tape was going to fix this problem. I pulled all the unnecessary stuff out of my pack and started walking back to my truck. It was all downhill, with a decent breeze so I made good time before the unbearable heat set in. I packed my truck and strapped down all my gear for some tricky 4 wheeling to get back up there to the Rokon. Turns out to be 4.7 rugged miles. I loaded the Rokon and decided to head for home in sunny Yuma where it was only 116 degrees.
It could have been worse however; the Garmin device, in addition to the emergency SOS, has a feature where you can send free preselected messages to your family and friends. At the end of the message the device stamps your GPS coordinates so they know where you are. Since I do so much prospecting alone, I make this compromise so people worry less about me. For $30.00 a month service fee, it's cheap insurance and my family worry less. So, every night I send a preselected message of "Alive and Well" and they can plot my last location if something happens to me. Staying home where it's safe is not an option in my world.
I spent several weeks in early July, panning and sluicing on the N. Fork of the American River. I've been going to the same 10 mile section of the river for over 20 yrs. That part of the river is designated Wild & Scenic, so no motorized equipment and no claims. It's one of the few places in CA gold country you can access a free flowing river without stepping on someone's gold claim. Access is not easy, although there a a number of trails up and down the river. They're all rugged, often steep and always overgrown with poison oak. I have often encountered "locals" who at various times attempt to eke out an existence by panning and sluicing the river. Generally friendly and sometimes willing to share local knowledge of the gold. When I meet them I make a point to brew up a big pot of spaghetti and feed all comers. Many years ago, I met a guy my age driving a new Jeep Cherokee. He was socially awkward, but I learned he was a software engineer from the Silicon Valley and had taken up gold prospecting on weekends. He was not very successful, so my 6 yr old son and I invited him to come dig in a hole we had started. He sluiced a few buckets and declared that was more gold than he had ever found. Skip ahead 10 years, I found him living in a tent on the banks of the river having spent 2 years pursuing the golden dream. He was eking out an existence and seemed to be perfectly happy. Imagine a 6 mile hike uphill, just to reach a paved road, hope for a ride to town to get supplies then repeat the process back down. Supplies are limited to what you can afford and carry on your back. The local mining supply store pays 80 percent of spot, for good clean gold. This guy still had the math and engineering brain so he could tell me exactly how much he was earning per hr, although he did not factor that it was in fact a 24 hr a day job, living on the river.
Every now and then "flatlanders" discover the place and bring down a bunch of gear intending to strike it rich. They are soon disillusioned and I find their gear stashed in the woods. I've seen one sleeping bag stashed in the same spot for over 4 years, untouched. Buckets and digging tools get carried away by spring floods and I find them littered on gravel bars.
There is an old mining road ,overgrown, heavily rutted, washed out and frequently blocked by blown down timber. It currently takes me about an hr to travel just over 3 miles down that road crawling in 4 wheel drive low locked in 1st gear. At one time you could drive to within 100 yds of the river. There was a fabulous camping spot under a massive oak, with a spring nearby. In their infinite wisdom, the BLM blocked the road about 1.5 miles from the old camping spot. They brought in some heavy equipment and dug tank traps to block all future traffic down the road. For many seasons I hiked the rest of the way down on a variety of trails. A few yrs ago, my son, then strapping teenager and I started hacking an ATV trail around the tank traps. We spent a few hrs a day for over a week cutting a new trail. It's passable by ATV to this day, but you really have to know the danger spots or slide right down the hill. I've winched my own ATV up that zone many times.
More to come in Part II.....
By Jim Hemmingway
Abandoned Trails in Silver Country
Silver country represents a small part of a vast, heavily forested wilderness perched on the sprawling Precambrian Shield here in northeastern Ontario. Away from the small towns and villages, and widely scattered farms and rural homesteads, there exists a largely uninterrupted way of life in the more remote areas. There are uncounted miles of lonely country backroads, overgrown tracks leading to abandoned mining camps, innumerable rough timber lanes, and a virtually infinite tangle of winding trails that reach deeply into the distant forests.
Nothing in my experience has been so completely companionable as the soft forest whisperings and the beckoning solitude that reigns over this ruggedly beautiful country. This is where my carefree days of autumn prospecting have been agreeably spent for many years. We returned again this year to unbounded, satisfying autumn days of kicking rocks, exploring and detector-prospecting adventures, followed by evenings spent evaluating silver ores while savoring hot coffee over blazing campfires.
Irrespective of silver recoveries, the flaming autumn colors of the boreal forest are the real treasure of the season. They persist for only a few short weeks, reluctantly yielding to the autumnal yellows of the tamarack, birch, and aspen in sharp contrast to the deep conifer greens. Scenery as depicted below accentuates your enthusiasm to get into the field, and pretty much ensures that an autumn prospecting trip to silver country is a memorable experience.
Unprecedented, persistently wet conditions eliminated any potential for a banner season, but nonetheless we did manage to find considerable worthwhile silver. In addition to an assortment of rich silver and associated minerals, my friend and occasional partner Sheldon Ward recovered a large, very high conductive native silver ore that we’ll take a closer look at shortly. Most of my quality silver finds were fairly small, although a specimen grade silver ore at five pounds was found during the final week of the trip, and frankly I felt very fortunate to get it. Larger material was recovered, for example a 24-pound highgrade silver ore from the same area, but these invariably were mixed ores co-dominated by cobalt and various arsenides, most notably niccolite as illustrated below.
On a more positive note, we both found plentiful small silver generally ranging between one-half and ten ounces that added real weight to the orebag over the season’s duration. It is much easier to find small but rich, high character silver than is the case with larger material. Even so, specimen grade detectable silver in any size range is becoming increasingly difficult to find at many of the obvious, readily accessible sites nowadays.
The photo below is a pretty fair representation of the overall quality, although anything below a half-oz was excluded from this shot… such are not terribly photogenic beside larger samples. Some rich ‘nuggety’ ores were HCl acid-bathed to free the silver from carbonate rock, and all samples were subjected to a rotary tool circular wire brush to remove surface residues, followed by a dish detergent wash and rinse.
By way of a brief background explanation to readers unfamiliar with this prospecting application, we search for more valuable coin-size and larger pieces of silver. Natural native silver target ID is determined by physical and chemical factors such as silver purity, types of mineral inclusions, structure (for example, dendritic, plate, disseminate or particulate, sponge, nuggety or massive), size, shape, and the profile presented to the coil. Virtually all natural silver from this area will target ID from low foil up to a maximum of silver dime range. Only infrequently over the years have we found isolated, rare examples of our naturally occurring silver exceeding that range.
The specimen depicted below is a commonplace example of silver typically recovered here. It isn’t terribly large or particularly handsome, but it is mostly comprised of native silver by weight. Its target ID is a bit elevated from the usual, but consider that even small changes to some of the more influential factors listed above can significantly alter target ID. I tend to pay minimal attention to it when evaluating samples.
It was detected adjacent to an abandoned mining track that leads directly to a former mill site at the mining camp scene depicted above. No treatment required other than a leather glove rubdown followed by a soapy wash and rinse, in fact it looked quite presentable fresh out of the dirt. The darker material you see is heavily tarnished native silver that I intend to leave undisturbed.
Ground conditions also play an important role in determining target ID, and refer to factors such as the strength of non-conductive magnetic susceptible iron minerals present, ground moisture content, proximity of adjacent targets, and disturbed ground. These factors sometimes contribute to good silver at depth producing a VLF target ID within the iron range.
Probably the best photo example available to me is a specimen found a few years back at good depth in tough magnetic susceptible diabase. It produced a predominantly iron target ID on the Fisher F75. It was detected in a fairly low trash area, the signal was suspect, and it was checked with the groundgrab feature. In this instance, there was no ground phase reduction to more conductive values as would be anticipated over rusty iron or a positive hotrock, and so the target was dug.
The general rule of thumb over questionable weaker signals, regardless of groundgrab results, is to remove some material to acquire a stronger signal and target ID readout before making a decision to continue digging in our difficult, hard-packed rocky substrates, or to move on. If there is the least doubt, we dig the target to learn what actually produced the signal.
The specimen depicted below was found by eyesight while hiking along an old abandoned rail track. In the field our rock samples seem more attractive or valuable than they do once we return to camp, where we tend to view them far more critically. If they don’t look to have good specimen grade potential, my samples are either abandoned in an obvious place for others to find, or given away to visitors back at camp. But that’s just me, most hobbyists are more resourceful with unwanted samples, they’re refined by some, subjected to treatments, or slabbed, and ultimately sold. In any case, this rock didn’t terribly impress me and was placed with other discards on the picnic table. But nobody other than my wife seemed much interested in it, and that is how it came to be included here.
In its original condition, it could only be described as nondescript, with very little showing on the surface prior to treatment. It did produce a broad solid PI signal, despite that the few surface indicators were non-conductive dark ruby silver pyrargyrite and to a much lesser extent what I suspect is the black silver sulfosalt stephanite. To see more, it was acid-washed to expose silver and associated minerals, cleaned-up with a rotary tool, followed by a dish detergent bath and clean water rinse.
Both these minerals produce a good luster that makes them a bit more difficult to distinguish from native silver in a photo. But in reality it is easy to see the differences and do some simple tests to confirm if necessary. The acid treatment revealed that the sample does have a good showing of dendritic native silver, a timely reminder that metal detectors see what we initially can’t see inside rocks.
Abandoned Trails, Minesite Tracks and Roadbeds…
Abandoned, frequently overgrown trails, mining tracks, and roadbeds provide convenient routes to prime detecting sites that otherwise would be much more difficult to access. But the important thing is that most such routes were built with discarded mine tailings to considerable depth, and contain good silver more frequently than you might think possible. Some snake through the bush to more remote areas, but the vast majority of these now abandoned routes were built to service existing minesites at the time. They were used to transport discarded rock to the tailing disposal areas, and silver ores to storage buildings and to mill sites, and generally to service other mining camp requirements.
We know from research and experience that silver was misgraded, inadvertently misplaced, or lost directly from spills to eventually reside on, within, or alongside these now abandoned trails and roadbeds. These mine tailings… frequently containing rich silver… were also used to build storage beds, minesite entrances, loading ramps, and as noted… routes to facilitate waste rock transport. All these offer excellent, obvious prospects to search with a suitable metal detector.
The nugget below, with several other pieces, was found in the tailings adjacent to the abandoned track in the photo above. Some good weather following a horrendous week of persistent heavy rainfalls prompted me to head out late one afternoon for some casual detecting. I had sampled those tailings earlier in the season but nothing by way of thorough searching. And while the silver was generally small, it had been surprisingly good quality. So I was looking forward to a few relaxing hours of detecting… nothing ambitious that late in the day… just happy to get out of camp.
That particular spot formerly housed silver storage beds, and was now replete with large rusty nails. I should have used a VLF unit, as things would have gone much more quickly. VLF motion all-metal detection depth in that moderate ferromagnetic substrate would pretty well match Infinium equipped with the 8” mono, with the further advantage of target ID and groundgrab features to assist with signal evaluation. If conductive pyrrhotite hotrocks had also been present, I would have switched over to my F75 or MXT to take advantage of target ID.
But I stayed with the Infinium primarily because I enjoy using it. By comparison it is slow going, but that isn’t such a bad thing over potentially good ground. It silences what can be described as VLF ground noise, in addition to sizable non-conductive mafic hotrocks in this area. It also has some limited high conductive iron handling capability, for example elongated iron such as drillrods or rail spikes at depth that VLF units using iron discrimination modes misidentify with perfectly good signals and non-ferrous target ID readouts. More information on this subject can be found at… http://forum.treasurenet.com/index.php/topic,384975.0.html http://forum.treasurenet.com/index.php/topic,385640.0.html
Nearly all the signals proved to be nails, plus one drillrod with a perpendicular profile to the coil. The silver below produced a low-high signal in zero discrimination and a good high-low signal in reverse discrimination (maximum available pulse delay setting) at maybe eight to ten inches depth. The exposed silver was unusually tarnished and the remainder partially embedded in carbonate rock. It was acid-bathed to free the silver, cleaned with a rotary tool silicon carbide bit and circular wire brush, followed by a detergent wash and rinse.
While searching one such abandoned route with his Fisher F75 equipped with the stock 11” DD elliptical coil, Sheldon Ward found a large highgrade silver ore comprised of a thick calcite vein containing massive dendritic native silver. The vein material weighs about 25 lbs, and was attached to a mafic host rock. It generated a moderate but broad signal from several feet depth, requiring an hour of hard pick and shovel work to recover it. It possesses an unusually elevated target ID in the silver quarter range. After 30+ years searching this area recovering numerous silver ores and nuggets, I've seen only a small handful of silver produce a similar target ID.
On site we obviously have the benefit of closely examining the vein material, but it’s more difficult for readers to evaluate the silver based on photos only. Outdoor photos do tend to make native silver look much like grey rock, and unfortunately this one is smudged with dirt. I’ve added an indoor photo from Sheldon that displays the vein material after it was separated from the host rock and cleaned.
Sheldon if you happen to be reading along here, congratulations on your many superb silver and associated mineral recoveries over the past year. Nothing that your dedication and persistence achieves in the years to come will ever surprise me. WTG!!!
Persistence Pays Dividends…
Let’s wrap things up with a tale about the rock sample below. It was recovered at the edge of a tangled overgrown trail near a former millsite just a few years ago. Its recovery exemplifies that the more you work towards your objective of finding silver or gold, the more likely your probability of success will correspondingly improve.
I’d been searching that particular area for two days without meaningful results while evaluating a newly purchased Garrett Infinium for this application. The second day had again been filled with digging hard-packed rocky substrates for iron junk, worthless or otherwise unwanted arsenides, and plenty of conductive pyrrhotite hotrocks. As the sun was reaching for the western horizon, I decided to make one final effort before heading elsewhere the following day.
Methodically working along the old track towards the mill, lots of old diggings were plainly visible. But previous hunters had ignored an area with a scattering of large, flat rusty iron pieces and other miscellaneous modern trash. I moved quickly to clear it away, because daylight was fading fast beneath the dense forest canopy. My Infinium soon produced a surprisingly strong high-low signal that practically vanished in reverse discrimination… a promising indication of naturally occurring ores. I dug down a foot before my Propointer could locate the signal.
Probability says that it could have been any number of possible targets altogether more likely than good silver. But fickle Lady Luck was more kindly disposed towards me that evening. The rich, finely dendritic piece depicted below was in my gloved hands just as twilight was stealing across that lonely abandoned trail in remote silver country.
A Final Word…
A special mention to my friend Dr. Jim Eckert. I hadn’t seen much of Jim recently, but happened across his trail late one overcast afternoon in the outback. I was about to hike into a site when this fellow came flying down the trail on a motorbike, and despite the riding helmet I recognized him. We had a good long chat about this and that…
Later in the season, one bright sunny afternoon at the site of my short-lived testhole diggings, Jim stopped around to show me a recent specimen find comprised of native silver and crystalline stephanite. We talked mineralogy and other interests many hours until finally the sun was going down. These were highlights of the trip, and I want to say how much I enjoyed and appreciated having that companionable time together.
Thanks to everyone for dropping by. We hope that you enjoy presentations about naturally occurring native silver, particularly since it is different from what many rockhunters normally encounter in their areas. All the very best with your prospecting adventures… perhaps one day it will be our good luck to meet you in the field…………………… Jim.
Reposted July 2018
Detector Prospector “Rocks, Minerals & Gems”